Home > Cultural Informatics > Visvarupa > The Visvarupa Iconographic Traditions > Book on Visvarupa by Prof. T. S. Maxwell


Chapter 4



A Complex Śaiva Experiment in Western India

At about the time the Śamalājī image was being formulated, or slightly later, a Śaiva iconographical development of equal originality though of less complexity was commenced some 550 kilometres to the south. It is a colossal sculpture (Plate 61) which was not quite completed. Today it is housed in an annex to the Caṇḍikā Devī temple in the suburb of Parel in Bombay, not far from where it was found. It is regarded as a goddess, the Twelvefold Mother (Barah Mātā). Its composition is clearly derived from Types A and B of Kuṣāṇa invention.

A vertical series of three standing figures forms the axis (Source no. 2A); from behind the lowest emerges a second standing figure and the topmost similarly rises from behind him, in an arrangement very like that sculpted on the sides of the N5nd column. Its more immediate antecedent, however, is the Śamalājī sculpture; as noted in analysing that image, there is an 'independent' pattern within the total pattern of over-lapping deities in the, prabhamaṇḍala, consisting of the central vertical register of three figures [see Śamalājī Nimbus Key Diagram (Figure 3.1) (A), (B), (C)l, with a pair of emanatory figures emerging from both A and B [ (AR) and (AL), (BR) and (BL) ] in   a pratyālīḍha  pasture. This central pattern in the nimbus of the Śamalājī image is imitated in the Parel sculpture, but on a colossal scale, the whole composition standing about 348 centimetres high.

From behind the shoulders of each of the two lower figures (which I shall term (A) and (B) in the Parel image also) emerge two more figures, curving outward and upward; the way in which their torsos and fares are turned to look back toward the figure from which they emanate recalls the Kuṣāṇa figure of Saṅkarṣaṇa/Balarāma in the Caturvyūha sculpture at Mathura (Plate 12). What is visible of the legs of these side figures suggests that the lower two (referred to here as AR and AL) are intended to be seen in the full flying posture, while the upper two (BR) and (BL) appear to be in a very relaxed position, perhaps simply a tribhaṅga posture, represented at an angle from the perpendicular. Thus the former pair seem to be bursting out energetically from behind figure (A), whereas the latter two give an impression of floating effortlessly above them, while still connected to figure (B) and slightly overlapping the apical figure (C).

None of these seven male figures is crowned; all have long hair arranged in various styles. All carry the ascetic's waterpot (kamaṇḍalu) in the left hand and make a formal gesture (mudrā) with the right. Although the figure at the top (C) has ten arms, its lowest pair of hands displays the same characteristics as those of the six two-armed figures beneath it: the right hand is posed in a mudrā while the left holds a kamaṇḍalu. Leaving aside, for the moment, the additional eight hands of this apical figure, I shall begin with a description of all seven figures, starting from base, as if all were two-armed.

The central figure at the bottom is the only one to be represented full length. It stands upright, naked but for a long lower garment reaching almost to the ankles with a rolled waistband (which has no fold below the navel as in the Śamalājī image) a loop of which hangs across the lower thighs. A central fold falls straight from the waistband to a point between the ankles. It is a garment which, if the figure were seated, would closely resemble that of the Śamalājī image. The throat bears the conventional trirekha mark of beauty. As ornaments, the figure wears only simple bracelets, armlets, a thin necklace and ear pendants. Its most impressive decorative feature is a massive coiffure: a tall jaṭā-mukuṭa with an intricate central diadem and a curved band above it, from the top of which rope-like jaṭās fall on either side, ending in stylized curls before they reach the shoulders. The anatomy looks robust, but not heavy, and the overall appearance of the figure is very neat. The face is contemplative, the eyes closed, the features possessed of a sensual quality to which no expression is given; the impression received is that the figure man or deity-is self-contained, withdrawn, yet full of active potential. If the bust of this figure is considered in isolation above the line of the doubled legs of the figures to its left and right (AL) and (AR), a similarity of feature and-so to speak-mood' between it and the colossal bust of Śiva (with three heads) in the main cave on Elephanta Island can be seen, although the latter is more ponderous and more richly ornamented (Plate 62).


All seven figures have similar faces-also bearing comparison with the central (Sadyojāta) face of the Elephanta colossus-and body ornaments, but differ in dress, where this can be seen, and coiffure. No hairstyle other than that of (A), however, resembles that of Sadyojāta at Elephanta. This full-length figure at the base of the composition holds a kamaṇḍalu balanced on the curled fingers of the lowered left hand, palm outward, the neck of the pot leaning sideways against the wrist between the base of the thumb, which is folded across the bulb of the pot, and the bracelet. The right hand is held up to shoulder level, its thumb and damaged index linger forming a circle in the vitarka or vyākhyāna (teaching) mudrā with an akṣmālā or rosary looped around the edge of the hand and across the palm to be held, originally, between the tips of the index finger and thumb. The figure thus appears to be that of an ṛṣi or important sage, standing in a hieratic posture, who is a teacher of some religious doctrine.

Figure (B) is visible above the head of (A) only from the level of the navel upward: the outer edges of its thighs, however, can be seen on either side of the head of (A), indicating that this second figure is to be regarded as standing. There is a loop of rolled or pleated material to the immediate right of the edge of the right thigh, but this belongs to figure (AR), being a loop of its waistband streaming out to emphasize the vigour of its horizontal flight. Nothing can be surmised concerning the dress of figure B except to say that an unfinished bulge around the hips indicates that a lower garment of some kind was to have been suggested. The bracelets, armlets and ear ornaments are the same as those of (A), but the necklace is a wider solid circlet. The hair is arranged in a manner very similar to the style of (A), but lacks the intricate diadem, which is replaced by a jewelled or beaded band which holds together the mass of piled-up hair and draws it back from the brow. The left hand, palm outward like that of (A), holds a kamaṇḍalu, but here raised to waist level, and dangles the pot almost casually by its neck between the curled index and middle fingers. The right hand is lower than that of (A), being raised to the right breast, where it forms precisely the same vitarka or vyākhyāna-mudrā, with an akṣmālā between the tips of the thumb and index finger, but turned inward against the body.

Figure (C), at the apex of the composition (Plate 61), is similar to the two below it, with variations, as in their case, in coiffure and mudrā and manner of holding the kamaṇḍalu; the main difference lies in its multiplicity of arms, which I shall describe later. The posture, with the edges of the thighs visible on either side of the jaṭās of (B) the bulge of a waistband just visible, the bracelets, ear pendants and trirekha are all the same. The necklace appears to be less like a torque than that of (B), hut heavier than that of (A). The hairstyle is similar in being piled up, hut is clearly intended to he rather less carefully groomed: above the bulging hairline, it consists entirely of snake-like tresses spreading hark from the face. A broad crescent, horns upward, is set upon the front as a diadem. Both forearms are symmetrically raised to shoulder level (concealing any keyūras, which may be imagined upon the upper arms). The front left hand holds a akṣmālā in the same casual grip as does that of (B) but, as the arm is raised, the hand is shown palm upward. The front right hand, presented edge-on, is broken: the little finger is clearly visible, tilted backward, and the next two fingers appear in the photographs as a single projection above it. An akṣamālā is looped around the outer edge of the hand, running under the base of the little finger and up across the palm to where, in my opinion, it was originally gripped between the tips of the now broken thumb and index finger. This mudrā would thus have resembled most closely that of (A), but with the palm turned up toward the face.

A progression can be observed in the three modes of holding the kamaṇḍalu and in the three variants of the mudrā.  In three stages, starting with (A), the kamaṇḍalu is seen to be raised from mid-thigh level to waist level and then to the shoulder. The vyākhyāna-mudrā begins at shoulder level facing the worshipper, is next turned inward against the hod), and finally is tilted back, with its profile presented to the observer, like a mirror directed up at the face of (C). Possibly this sequential raising of the hands should be 'read' in the reverse order, from top to bottom, rather than from the base upward, the series of three figures representing rather a descent (in the manner of the three stages of the descent of the Buddha from the Trayastriṃśa heaven1) than an ascent. That question must remain open till I come to the interpretation of this image. I have indexed the three figures with the letters A, B, C upward from the base simply to conform to the indexing system applied to similar images discussed previously, so that this sculpture may be compared with them.

The two lower side-figures (AR) and (AL), spring from behind (A) in vigorous flight, the trailing leg as far as the upper thigh in each case hidden by one of the shoulders of the standing figure, while the leading leg is horizontal and bent double, the knee projecting forward and the foot bent back below the crotch. The torso and head of each is turned slightly back toward figure (A), their source. Their hairstyles are nearly identical, the hair being drawn tightly back from the brow and the sides of the head before rising in a profusion of snail-like curls and falling then behind the ears in long braids or ringlets. Each wears a single-strand necklace like that worn by (A), and each has a rolled waistband, which suggests a similar, if not identical lower garment. Both have their right hands raised to shoulder level, as does (A), but forming an abhaya or similar mudrā, which is seen in three-quarter profile from the front. A roughly cut rosary lies across the palm of each abhaya hand near the base of the fingers. Figure (AR) holds a kamaṇḍalu at waist level in a manner similar to the grip employed by (B), but holds the neck between thumb and index finger. His counterpart, figure (AL), has a much firmer grasp on the waterpot, holding its neck in his left fist on a level with his chest. It seems that these two figures were intended to be regarded as identical, except for the obvious difference in the manner of holding the kamaṇḍalu and a subtle flexion of the lingers of the right hand of (AL).

Rising gracefully from behind the shoulders of (B) appear two more side-figures which I have designated (BR) and (BL). They appear to be leaning outward from the centre in a pronounced but casual tribhaṅga posture: their ascent is effortless, unlike the dynamic flight of the two figures below them. Of the straight leg which, had they been standing instead of floating, would have borne the weight of the body, only the upper thigh is visible above the shoulders of (B); the bent leg, which tilts the hips and gives the impression of dehanchement, is concealed from mid-calf level behind the forearms of the figure from which they emanate. The head and shoulders of each IS turned gently toward the centre, the eyelids seeming to bend the gaze back down upon the head of (B). Again, the coiffures are very similar: the hair is in each case parted in the middle and drawn around the sides of the head, above which it seems to be coiled once more around the head and fastened in the centre either with a small diadem or a swept-up lock of hair, from which projects a topknot, whence long braids or tresses hang down to the shoulders. They each wear a solid circlet around the neck in imitation of that worn by their source, (B), plain keyūras with an upward point above the bicep, bracelets and ear ornaments. Their dress consists of what appears to be a short kilt, but a second hem stretched at an angle below the top of the garment suggests that it is in fact a long adhoṃśuka folded up and tucked into the waistband, as if they had, as Indians still do, 'girt up their loins' before some exertion or prior to fording a stream. One end of this garment, or perhaps a separate shawl, appears draped around the upper arm of (BL) below the keyūra and coiled around his forearm. Thus far, they are virtually identical. The differences between them lie both in the manner of holding the waterpot and the way in which the right-hand mudrā is displayed. (BR) holds the kamaṇḍalu in almost the same grip as does (C), the neck of the pot held casually between the curled index and middle fingers of the upward-turned left hand at shoulder height; opposite, (BL) cradles the bulb of the waterpot in his palm, a grip similar to that employed by (A), but raised to waist level. And whereas figure (BR) makes the vyākhyāna-mudrā with his hand turned palm-upward (the only example in the whole sculpture) at waist level, his counterpart displays the same mudrā raised to shoulder height, as does (C), but turned slightly outward toward the observer than inward, toward himself.

As these descriptions indicate, the seven inter-connected figures which make up the image are stylized, precisely conceived and idealized depictions of ṛṣis, well nourished, perfectly poised and neatly if modestly dressed, ornamented and accoutred. The four side figures appear almost as two pairs of twins, differing mainly in the position of their hands. If they are not twins, then it is clear that the two pairs are intended to be seen (in a spiritual sense at least) as brothers, springing as they do from the same two sources or father figures (A) and (B), who, in turn, are very similar to each other. The lone figure at the top of the composition (C) appears to be the progenitor of these latter two and hence the source of all six figures beneath him.

Now this apical figure, in addition to sharing the attributes of the other six, has the distinction of eight extra arms, as already noted. Apart from the crescent in his hair and his dominant position, these arms and the objects held in the additional hands constitute his only superior distinction. Disregarding now the mudrā and kamaṇḍalu in his front two hands, which he has in common with the figures below him, the distinctive eight attributes are the following. In the second pair of hands he holds two discs, each supported on its rim by a curved index figure and held upright between the remaining curled fingers in front and the thumb (which is invisible) at the back; this is the manner in which the Śamalājī Viṣṇu holds the cakra. That these are solar and lunar symbols can scarcely be doubted. The apical figure of both the Kuṣāṇa multiple Śiva relief at Musānagar and the three-headed Rang Mahal Śiva hold the sun and moon, and I have identified that figure accordingly as Kālarudra; and in the Śamalājī image, the personifications of the same two luminaries, the gods Sūrya and Candra, rise on either side of the apical Śiva.

The third right hand of (C) wields a very long sword (Asi, Sword of Dharma, created by Brahmā who gave-it to Rudra.2) On the left, the corresponding hand holds a small, round shield, its inner side facing the observer and showing the fingers curled around the horizontal handle.

Above these, the fourth pair of hands hold, on the right, an arrow, delicately poised between extended index and middle fingers, head downward, and on the left a long, double-curved bow; Śiva is Pinākin, owner of the mighty bow Pinākin by means of which he pierced with his single arrow the triple citadel of the demons and so gained the epithet Tripurāntakara.

Of the fifth pair of hands, held above the head, the right holds a second kamaṇḍalu upright by the neck between index finger and thumb, the remaining fingers curled downward, as if during a pause in pouring out draughts of its contents, while the corresponding left hand reaches horizontally over his head, the fingers bent downward in what might be described as an abhiṣeka or consecration-by-lustration mudrā:3 the god anoints himself as Lord (a possible reference to his receiving the celestial Mandākinī upon his head before it flowed on to the earth as Gaṅgā).

Taken in conjunction with the snake-like tresses and the crescent-moon diadem, these symbols leave no doubt that this highest figure is (Kāla-) Rudra-Śiva Maheśvara Tripurāntakara, self-anointed ruler, possessor of dharma, slayer of demons, controller of time and, most immediately and relevantly in this case, archetypal ṛṣi, which is why it is his front hands that display a teaching mudrā and hold an ascetic's waterpot.

Beneath the tree-like configuration of ṛṣis (if such they are) below him, seated under the 'branches' formed by the (AR) and (AL), are three gaṇas: that on the far right of (A) sings while plucking a stringed instrument which may be a kind of sāraṅgī, next to him another plays upon a flute (veṇu) with grim concentration, and the third, on the left of (A), plays an ancient form of the viṇā (which survives today in Burma and is usually termed the Burmese harp). Behind them on either side stand two other figures who hold either staves or the long necks of other musical instruments. I do not think that these are musical instruments for the simple reason that the shaft is on the right of the figure in one case and on the left of the other: one of the standing figures is thus left-handed. While it is somewhat unlikely that a lefthanded musician would be represented for the sake of visual harmony (despite their unnaturally lumpish forms, the three Fated gaṇa musicians all hold their instruments in a naturalistic dinner and all appear to be right-handed), a pair of dvārapālas or similar matching figures might well be so depicted, with no loss of naturalism, to achieve symmetry. I suggest that these two standing figures, who are unfinished, were intended to be guards leaning on their staves or maces.

The Parel multiple image is a fairly recent discovery (it was found by workmen in 1931, when it created a minor sensation); it is conceived on a grand scale, standing 348 centimetres in height, measuring 195.6 centimetres in width and being about 61 centimetres thick at the base, tapering to 30.5 centimetres at the top;4 and it is enigmatic, being bath a unique image and an unfinished one. The account of public reactions to its discovery5 reads like an instructive parable on perception. After being manhandled to a nearby Hanuman temple,6 in the course of which some breakage occurred,7 the sculpture was left on display while the authorities decided what to do with it. Pious Hindus came in crowds to worship it, as described by the English principal of a Bombay art school:


It has been fenced off with a light barrier to enable the devotees to take their turns in thronging before it-a colourful and interesting scene. The sculptures [sic] would soon be buried under the fragrant offerings lavished on them, were it not that the guardians remove the excess of floral tributes from time to time to enable the great slab of stone to be presented to the gaze of the crowd that surges around it.8


This gentleman, whose artistic eye recorded the social scene more accurately than the image itself, expressed the hope that it would be installed in the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay. Scholars, meanwhile, were also on the scene almost immediately, and rushed articles into print: Heras,9 Aiyangar,10 Acharya11 and Zieseniss12 added their descriptions to that of Captain Gladstone Solomon of the art school in newspapers and journals, Father Heras leading the field with an article in the Times of lndia live days after the discovery. No two eyewitness descriptions agreed, and no one could agree upon an identification of the image, which was erected (but not worshipped, since it had been damaged)13 as a Mother Goddess in an annexe to the nearby shrine of Caṇḍikā Devī, the Prince of Wales Museum having to content itself with a plaster cast. Whereas those who installed the image have, evidently, been mistaken as to its sender, they have correctly counted the total number of figures in the composition, which is twelve: Heras, Gladstone Solomon and Zieseniss- at least two of whom had personally inspected the sculpture- counted the number of gaṇas on the base incorrectly.

This minor but significant error of observation is enlarged when the interpretations are examined. Heras, the first to be published, simply states: 'The image represents a Mahesamurti, viz, the full manifestation of Shiva, as the cause of creation, protection and destruction of the world' (respectively personified by (A), (B) and (C)). The side-figures are dismissed as 'heavenly beings'. No substantial evidence is adduced.

To a curator of the Prince of Wales Museum, G. V. Acharya, who went to see the sculpture during and after excavation, is owed the explanation of the small amount of damage done to the unfinished image (it occurred when the sculpture was man-handled by labourers, in heavy rain on a muddy slope, from their work site to the Hanumān temple). In addition, it was Acharya who provided the first accurate measurements and a fair description (he counted the gaṇas correctly- and saw that (C) has ten arms, not eight as Heras asserted). He was also honest enough to point out that 'During this short interval'-his article in The Indian Daily Mail appeared only a few days after Heras' piece-'it is not possible to dive deep into the texts of Hindu Iconography and, therefore, I have put before the public my first impressions about the panel so that other scholars and experts may find it easy to cooperate in the attempt at positive identification.' His only personal suggestion as to the identity of the image is equally modest: 'Tentatively I am inclined to take this to be one of the various forms of Mahesha described by T. Gopinathrao in his ''Elements of Hindu Iconography''.' Such a multiple Śaiva composition is not, however, described in Gopinatha Rao's opus.

Kramrisch14 included this recent discovery in her book Indian Sculpture, published in 1933. She referred to it merely as a 'Śivaitic image'15 and offered no definite identification, summing it up in the following terms: 

The image from Parel is based on the meaning of the liṅgam, or Yakṣa and yoga power.  It visualizes Śiva not with the cosmical suggestiveness of the Naṭarāja image.  This shows Śiva in his everlasting activity beheld from without.  The image from Parel shows Śiva realized from within his state of power.16

Clearly such a grandiose and well-organized sculpture was not formulated and undertaken purely on the basis of such an abstraction, although it may be fair enough as general comment.

In the Annual Bibliography of Indian Archaeology for 1931, Alexander Zieseniss reviewed the opinions put forward by the first few scholars to write about the image and advanced his own interpretation. This is presented in scholarly tone, but some slips in Zieseniss' own description of the sculpture indicate that it should be treated with caution. For example, in describing the side-figure (BR), he states of its right arm that it 'is broken at or immediately above the wrist, so that the mudrā Cannot now be determined.'17 This is not true. The image is slightly damaged in several places, especially the hands and fingers, as I have indicated in my description (no doubt as the result of man-handling, as recorded by Acharya), and no restoration has been carried out, nor does the right hand of figure BR-for it is definitely there-show any sign of being a recent addition or a recutting of the original stone. Zieseniss was clearly misled by the unique manner in which this hand displays the vyākhyāna-mudrā, namely upside-down, which necessitates a sudden downward turn of the palm that can look like a break. Moreover, the photograph used to illustrate his article was taken in strong light directed from the right side of the base of the image, which leaves that mudrā in deep shadow. This suggests that the writer relied more upon a single piece of photographic evidence than upon his own direct observations.

Zieseniss' interpretation is that the image represents Śiva as the three guṇas (A), (B) and (C) upon which are superimposed the five elemental or cosmic forms of the god, (A) plus the side figures (AR), (AL), (BR) and (BL). But his interpretation has to be quoted in extenso:

  In the Śaiva Purāṇas [here reference is made to Passages in the Liṅga and Śiva Saura Purāṇas of the three the Liṅga is reckoned by O'Flaherty18 to be the oldest, dating from A.D. 600, which makes its earlier portions old enough to have become accepted wisdom at the time the Parel sculpture was begun] Śiva is said to be Vishṇu in his sāttvika aspect, Brahmā in his rājasa, and Kālarudra in his tāmasa aspect, while in his aspect beyond guṇas he is Maheśvara. This definition agrees well enough with the characteristics of the three figures of tee main group, [by which is meant figures A, B and C] with this difference that stress has been laid on the Maheśvara aspect of Śiva by means of the general resemblance of the figures to each other. The Kālarudra aspect of Śiva is easily recognized in the many-armed figure, while the waterjar identifies the, second member of the triad [figure B] as the Brahmā aspect of Śiva. The similarity of the mudrās shown in the right hands of the first and second figures [viz., A and B] has already been pointed out by Professor Heras.

The four secondary figures still remain to be discussed. On account of their marked resemblance to the central figure [by which Zieseniss means figure A] especially in the mudrā, they can hardly be described simply as heavenly beings [a reference to Heras' article cited above]. It is much more likely that they must be taken together with the centre figure and that they are the four secondary manifestations of Śiva Paṅchamurti: Sadyojāta, Vāmadeva, Tatpurusha and Aghora. The centre figure [A] would then be īśāna (also called Viśvarūpa), the primary constituent of the Paṅchamurti form who at the same time appears in the guise of the Vishnu aspect of Śiva. The absence of the usual attributes which characterize the four manifestations can easily be explained by the strongly marked tendency towards unification which has already been referred to as an outstanding trait of the sculpture. Its subject would thus be a combination of the Paṅchamurti and Maheśvara aspects of Śiva that is somewhat reminiscent of the later conception of Sadāśiva (-tattva) and Maheśvara (-tattva) as successive stages in the Descent of the Divine, found already in the Kailāsasaṃhitā of the Śivapurāṇa and well-known to the Śaiva-siddhānta and the Kashmirian Trika.19

This is also the interpretation placed upon the image by Zimmer in is lectures at Columbia University in 1942. It has thence been popularized, after his death, in a book constructed from his lecture notes by Campbell,20 who failed to trace Zimmer's source back to Zieseniss and hence could not give the latter's text-references. For reasons best known to himself, Campbell also published Heras' post-excavation photograph of the sculpture, in the same book, as a negative print.21 Zimmer's name has thus, sadly, been associated with nothing more original than a rewriting of one of the first hasty interpretations made in 1931 or shortly thereafter.

Zieseniss' explanation of the image has to be criticized on the following, grounds. To take the three axial figures (A), (B) and, (C), first, it is scarcely credible that a full-length image of 'Viṣṇu' (A) and a bust of 'Brahmā' (B) should appear quite devoid of their most characteristic iconographic features. There is nothing remotely Vaiṣṇava in the iconography of (A). (I have mentioned the similarity of its garment to that of the seated Śamalāji image, but this is merely a likeness of dress: not of inconographic symbolism.) As for (B), it is true that images of Brahmā conventionally hold a kamaṇḍalu, but the torso is normally crossed by an antelope skin, yogapaṭṭa or at least a yajṅopavīta (for example, see Plates 35 and 37) while three or four heads have characterized representations of this god from the beginning of his iconographical development. As this figure in the Pare1 sculpture is fully visible from the waist upward, there can have been no technical reason for their omission had the intention been to depict Brahmā. Nor, in an image of the complexity proposed by Zieseniss, would there have been any ideological reason for suppressing these iconographic features: il; as he points out, it was known that the god Śiva is composed of the three guṇas in the guises of Viṣṇu, Brahmā and Kālarudra, then there could have been no cause for hesitation in representing the first two of these deities in all their usual regalia, especially as they are vertically conjoined (in what Kramrisch22 terms a 'compositional liṅgam of the three superimposed figures') with a dominant, ten-armed image of unquestionable Śaiva iconography.

Much the same argument can be applied to Zieseniss' identification of the four side figures as Sadyojāta, Vāmadeva, Tatpuruṣa and Aghora-Bhairava. Each of the peripheral aspects of the fivefold elemental form of Śiva had been plainly differentiated in iconography since Kuṣāṇa times, as the development of the Caturmukhaliṅga clearly demonstrates (Plates 18-22). In a Śaiva image, there could be no justification for rendering these four faces in a virtually identical manner.

The last part of the counter-argument is the most telling. To superimpose Śiva as the three guṇas with Śiva as the live gross elements in an image consisting of only seven figures must mean that one of these figures has to bear a double identity, as Zieseniss fearlessly points out: figure (A) has to be imagined simultaneously as Śiva in the guise of Viṣṇu representing the sattva- guṇas and as the fifth and highest aspect of the Śaiva elemental pentad, īśāna, representing ākāśa (with his feet planted firmly on the ground). Such a complicated and ambiguous burden of symbolism cannot, surely, be attributed to the simple two-armed sage at the base of the sculpture. Moreover, if such a. coalescence of three figures with five figures had in fact been the object, it would clearly have been more in keeping with Śaiva numerology to make a multiple image with all eight figures separately represented, so conforming, at least in numbers, to the aṣṭamūrti (Eight-Bodied) conception of the god.

It might have been suggested-although this has not been proposed by any of the authorities cited-that the apical figure (C) could represent both the tamoguṇa as Kālarudra and the īśāna of the pentad associated with ākāśa. The other identifications put forward by Zieseniss might then be acceptable, if one were to view the entire image as a personified Caturmukhaliṅga, the central Liṅga consisting of three gods one above the other with the four elemental aspects, normally appearing as fares, springing out of it. Such a theory, showing the image as a dynamic expression of the normally rather undramatic and columnar four-faced Liṅga, has its attractions and, as I shall indicate below, I think there is a complementary ritual connection between this image and the Liṅga. But the absence of clear iconographical distinctions in such a multiple image remains inexplicable in terms of this theory; for even if represented with all their characteristic attributes and anatomical peculiarities, Viṣṇu and Brahmā (A) and (B), would still have been surrounded and dominated by five more figures of obvious Śaiva iconography, leaving no doubt as to the cult affiliation of the image. I must therefore reject both this theory and the interpretation of Zieseniss.

1 See, for example, the central register of a Gandhara panel in the Victoria and Albert, Museum.no.I.S.11-1947.

2 E.W. Hopkins, Epic Mythology, Strassburg, Berlin, 1915, p.176.

3   In the absence of a pot, the abhiṣeka (na)mudrā is known in Buddhism, though it is a two-handed gesture: G. Liebert (quoting E.D. Saunders, Mudrā, New York 1960), Iconographic Dictionary of the Indian Religions, Hinduism-Buddism-Jainism, Lieden 1976,p.2,cf.kṣepaṇa (hasta) mudrā,p.142.

4 G.V. Acharya, The Indian Daily Mail, 16th October 1931:the dimentions are recorded as 11'5''x6'5''' and the side-elevation as 'about 2 feet' thick at the base and 'a foot' at the top.

5 Recorded in JBHS 1932, 'Notes and News', pp.287-95.

6 Capt. W. E. Gladstone Solomon, Times of India, 16th October 1931.

7 Achrya, The Indian Daily Mail.

8 Solomon, Times of India.

9  H. Heras, Times of India,14 October 1931.

10 S.K. Aiyanagar, The Hindu, date not recorded.

11 Acharya, The Indian Daily Mail.

12 A. Ziesensies, 'The Sculpture of Parel', Annual Bibliography of Indian Archaeology, 1931, pp.5-10.

13 According to S. Kramrisch, The Presence of Śiva, Princeton University Press 1981,p.461, the image 'is still in worship'. However, a report commissioned by me states categorically: 'It is not offered pūjā because it was damaged while being excavated-and, on principle, no pūjā can be offered to a damaged mūrti, Tilaks are placed on all heads except the upper three-the pūjāri [from the adjacent Caṇḍikā-Devī temple] cannot reach them.' (Latter dated Poona, 3April 1978,from Dr Patrick Olivelle.)  The honouring of an image by finger-painting on the brow does not necessarily mean that it is worshipped, a fact which Kramrisch has overlooked.

14 S. Kramrisch, Indian Sculpture (Heritage of India Series), YMCA Calcutta and OUP London 1933.

15 Ibid., p. 70.

16 Ibid., p. 176.

17 Zieseniss, 'The Sculpture of Parel', p. 8.

18 W. D. O'Flaherty, Hindu Myths, A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit, Harmondsworth 1975, pp.17-18.

19 Nieseniss, 'The Sculpture of Parel', p. 9.

20 H. Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, ed. J. Campbell (Bollingen Series 6), Princeton University Press 1946, reprinted 1962, pp.134-5.

21 Ibid., Plate 32.

22 Kramrisch, Indian Sculpture, p.175.


[ Previous Page | Content List | Next Page ]

HomeSearchContact usIndex

[ Home | Search  |  Contact UsIndex ]

[ Digital Library | Electronic Books | Visvrupa Project ]

Oxford University Press 1988